Friday, November 21, 2008

Bessy & Susan Sitting In A Tree ...

Hartford Courant


Marriage: A Long-Delayed Dream Comes True

By Bessy Reyna

November 21, 2008

In the 34 years Susan and I have lived together, and after having our civil union ceremony in 2005, we thought that getting married would have to wait for many more years. So, we were taken by surprise when the state Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. Like all people who have lived with discrimination, just imagining that this inequality would suddenly cease seemed like a quixotic dream.

In Connecticut, there were several keys to making this dream real. Foremost is Love Makes A Family ( ). Under the brilliant leadership of Anne Stanback, this organization has educated and lobbied to obtain equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. The New England nonprofit Gay &Lesbian Advocates and Defenders provided the lawyers who successfully argued the court case. Then, there are the thousands of gay and straight supporters who donated money and time working tirelessly for marriage equality alongside politicians throughout the state.

Moments after the court's decision on Oct. 10, we knew we would get married. But the logistics of when and how became daunting. Our friend, Dr. Bill Reitman, suggested different settings and came along to evaluate. We looked at websites; tried to imagine what kind of ceremony we wanted. I've developed a new respect for people getting married — planning is overwhelming.

Then, on Election Day , we ran into our friend state Rep. Pam Sawyer, R-Bolton, who asked us about our wedding plans and offered to be our justice of the peace.That was the encouragement we needed. It became clear. What would make us really happy would be to have an intimate ceremony at home immediately and a larger celebration next summer. Even the intimate ceremony benefited local businesses — from the carpet cleaner to the florist. Bill brought a luscious guava-filled cake from Los Cubanitos bakery in Hartford.

So on the fifth day of legal same-sex marriage in Connecticut, our friend, poet and photographer Pit Pinegar, took pictures and the Kelly girls, Crystal, Maya and Milan, handed us the rings along with tissues to dry our tears. I was surprised at how filled with emotion we became as Pam spoke about our relationship during the thoughtful and lovely ceremony she had written for us.

When same-sex marriage was legalized in Spain, the prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said that "a small change in wording means an immense change in the lives of thousands of citizens." He was so right.

Sadly, as we celebrate, same-sex couples in California are faced with the passage of Proposition 8, prohibiting any more same-sex marriages in that state and putting in legal limbo those that have already taken place.

At a time when scores of people are losing jobs and homes every day, have no medical insurance and face myriad real social problems, one wonders what motivated the Mormon Church to generate $20 million in donations to support Proposition 8.

What earth-shattering reason motivates some religious groups to continue to spread vitriol against gays? The atmosphere they have created fuels hate crimes and destroys the lives of many young people.

In his recent book "Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing The Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America," editor Mitchell Gold writes that many of the same churches that supported slavery are now at the forefront of the fight against rights for gays, in both cases quoting their Bibles to support their arguments.

Susan and I have felt very fortunate to have had the support of so many friends and relatives whose heterosexual weddings we have celebrated. They know that our marriage is no threat to theirs. In response to a photo we sent out in which Susan and I hold the sign "Just Married," our niece Laura Holmes-Lane, married with two children, wrote: "Congratulations! ... now we are all legal! We're so happy for you both — a long time in coming ... !"

• Bessy Reyna, who is not changing her name, is a free-lance writer whose column appears the third Friday of every month. To leave her a comment in English or Spanish, please call 860-241-3165. Or e-mail her at

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